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UC Davis Formula Electric builds all-electric racecar

Every week, a group of UC Davis mechanical and electrical engineering majors gather in Bainer Hall. There, they integrate knowledge from electrical circuits, dynamics, material properties and many other engineering disciplines. Their goal? To build the fastest electric racecar they can under the guidelines of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Formula Electric competition.

You might know them as the former Formula Hybrid team. This year, they have switched focus to electrical vehicles. According to several Formula Electric members, electric vehicles are the way of the future.

“You can do more with a bigger electric motor. With a hybrid, you are constrained by the chassis and how much power you can put out,” said Jeff Bouchard, a fourth-year electrical engineering major.

The general overview of how electric vehicles work starts with the motor. The motor turns electrical energy into mechanical energy, propelling the vehicle into motion. The motor receives commands from a computer called the motor controller. A person may input different commands to the motor controller, such as throttling. The battery supplies energy to the entire car.

Formula Electric’s racecar consists mainly of the chassis (the frame) and the power train (motor and motor controller), which is also a senior design project for some members. The work is divided among teams. The chassis team cuts and reshapes steel tubes for the frame, the electrical team does the circuitry and programming for the actual controls and the ergonomics people work on steering, seats, the acceleration pedal, brake pedal and gas pedal.
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